Thursday, April 07, 2016
That's the message of the whole film, really, that this stuff doesn't have consequences. His marriage is wrecked, mainly by his drug and hookers habits - but he didn't seem to care much about any of that anyway. After his imprisonment he's still giving motivational lectures on selling. Of course, it would be wrong for this to have a happy ending, with justice being served and the evil-doers getting their just desserts. That isn't what happens in real life, and it would be implausible to tell a financial story that ended that way. There is a touch of consolation in the familiar Hollywood theme that the rich and powerful aren't any more happy than the rest of us, but even that is not really carried through. A certain kind of young man seeing this film would think of it as a recruiting commercial for the financial services industry.
Monday, April 04, 2016
It was much, much better than I was expecting. The merchandise from the film is of course aimed at providing stuff to buy for the little-girl fans. But the film itself is quite dark, and touches on some quite heavy issues - the things that are never talked about in families, what it feels like to have an older sibling grow away from you, having powers (feelings) that you can't control. The love between sisters is a major theme and well handled. Even the silly snowman character, who is unaware that his enjoyment of warmth will bring about his own demise, brings up some stuff about mortality.
It's also worth noting that it comprehensively trashes the idea that you will know true love when you find it - and I was pleased to see that the worst baddie doesn't look or sound like a villain at all, at least for most of the film. We are as taken in as the characters in the film.
It's great the way it engages with Norse and Sami mythology, and the look of it is really great - though there are goofy comic characters, and the marshmallow monster was lame and not frightening, some of the others are well drawn and wouldn't look out of place in Studio Ghibli steampunk. I particularly liked the way that the ships looked, and the vision of frozen Oslo. The ice storm effects, and the way that the ships crash about towards the end, are very effective.
Interesting that some of those who watched it with us, and who had seen it several times before, felt the need to disparage it as soppy, even though they clearly wanted to watch it again.
The poster above is the soppiest version - there were others which looked darker, and which emphasise the relationship between the film and the Hans Christian Andersen story, 'The Snow Queen', on which it is based.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
I have a soft spot for Cher, though I can no longer remember why. Has she actually ever been in any good films?
Almost embarrassed to post this review because it means I'm admitting that I watched the film.
This is a rather long but very good period drama, loosely based on the life of the American woman Florence Fletcher Jenkins, who thought she was a great singer but wasn't. Curiously, there is another film about her life about to be released, starring Meryl Streep, more closely based on her actual life and apparently much more obviously comic.
The reviews of this one were rather misleading, in that they describe it as a rather light period comedy, but it's actually very painful to watch - about self-delusion, deceit, and the corrupting power of money. The Baroness Marguerite has never been told that she has a dreadful singing voice and appalling technique, and hasn't worked it out for herself. Everyone in her life has an interest in deceiving her about this, including some young blades who think her lack of talent is both powerfully symbolic of something-or-other and screamingly funny.
It builds to a humiliating public performance and then worse for Marguerite, who it's impossible not to like despite everything. It's impossible to like almost everyone else in the film.
It's odd that you wait half a lifetime for a film about such a woman and then two come along at once. For me the film evoked the feelings I associate with impostor syndrome, even though it depicts what seems to be the opposite. Marguerite thinks she has talent even though she doesn't, whereas impostor syndrome is about the feeling that you don't have competence but have thus far fooled everyone - a bit like feeling that you are a Marguerite. Not exactly the same, because impostor-syndrome sufferers don't think that everyone is conspiring to deceive them, but rather that no-one else has realised...
A really good film - looking forward to seeing the other one.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
The plot involves a preppy Black FBI man, IRA arms caches, a terminally ill mother, philosophically inclined drug smugglers...and plenty more that can't really be discussed without drifting into spoilers. Lots of the cinematography is beautiful, and much of the rest is effectively claustrophobic. The dialogue is so sharp I wanted to hear it all again, or see it written down - but there are lots of really good visual jokes too. A great film - I wish there were more like this.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
I liked the version of the modern world that has evolved without electricity or the internal combustion engine, but is nevertheless recognisably modern. It's not a cod-Victorian world. I think that's clever.
On the other hand, I really couldn't be bothered with the plot, and I didn't find most of the characters engaging enough. There were also too many plot elements - the late introduction of the S&M brothel is particularly irritating in that respect. I'm not adverse to a bit of S&M sex, but it's either part of the story or it isn't. And there's an awful lot of food descriptions, particularly cake. It's funny at first, but it began to get on my nerves.
Nevertheless, I'm not sorry I spent the time with this book, and hope to read some others by the author.
Saturday, March 05, 2016
A very well-written, cleverly structured, thoughtful historical novel. Lots of insight into character, but also into big issues like the meaning and values of democracy. It’s a sort of fictionalised account of De Tocqueville’s visit to America, but with more fun and adventures, and tension between the two very different narrators. I usually enjoy Peter Carey’s work, and this one makes up for the awful ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’.
I found the last few pages particularly poignant, especially since it’s the insights of the anti-democratic aristocrat that turn out to be the more astute and prophetic.
There are great descriptions of the kinds of magical thinking and self-bargaining that goes on when anyone fails to resist temptation. Science Studies comes off rather badly - although McEwan isn't a physicist he does seem to have bought into the physicists' view of their own perceived place in the intellectual hierarchy. On the other hand, he does engage properly with climate change, even if he puts the arguments in the mouths of some horrid people.
This is a well-written historical novel with a focus on the military aspects of the Albigensian Crusade. Although the political issues and the social significance of Catharism are not ignored, that’s not what this is about. The central character is Simon de Monfort, and it’s more or less told from his point of view. This rather obscures some of the real nastiness, though it’s not glossed over – we do have heretics burned alive and showing real courage, but it’s not from their point of view – they are more or less ciphers. Lots of detail about medieval siege-craft, which was interesting but not really what I was after.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Also worth noting that I found it hard to read, not because there's anything hard about the writing but because it made me so angry and miserable, because so powerless. I was strongly tempted to give up, which provides some insight into why so many people would rather read trash about celebs than engage with reality and power.
There are those (like Thomas Piketty?) who argue that this kind of capitalism is flawed and unsustainable, and that it contains the seeds of its own self-destruction. I am not sure about this. As James Meek writes in the LRB, one reason why we don't spend more time angry about the hyper-rich is that they already seem to exist in a different reality from the rest of us - it's easier to be angry about the 'benefit scrounger' next door.